EU Borders Open for Bulgarian and Romanian Workers

Written by | Friday, January 3rd, 2014

As of January 1, citizens of Bulgaria and Romania can work without any further restriction throughout the European Union. Being the poorest in the block, some of the EU member states imposed transitions controls on both countries when they joined the block in 2007. The mobility of their citizens throughout the EU labour market as well as the possibility to claim social benefits were restricted.
In the wake of this opening, Great Britain has expressed its worries about the “exodus” of Bulgarians and Romanians, given its experience with the influx of Poles when it joined the European Union. At the time of the great accession wave in 2004 when ten countries, including Poland, entered the EU, Great Britain was among the first countries to open its market without any transition period. As a result, the country has absorbed up to one million Poles, as unofficial figures estimate. This time around, however, the United Kingdom followed the example of Germany and Austria, which imposed a seven-year-long waiting period after 2004.
Bucharest and Sofia say that no exodus is to take place claiming that most of those who wanted to leave the country have already done so. Romanians and Bulgarians could travel to other EU countries without visa immediately after their accession. Yet, nine of then 25 member states opted for transitional restrictions, while Belgium, the Netherlands, and France demanded that they obtain work permits.
In Britain, prior to yesterday, prospective employers had to apply for work permits for workers from Bulgaria and Romania asking for an “accession worker card”. Moreover, low-skilled workers were subject to quotas in the agricultural and food processing sectors. The British government is also making its social benefit laws tougher to make sure that newcomers will not be able to claim any out-of-work benefits for three months after entering the country. The new regulations also stipulate that they will be able to apply for support only half a year after they have found a job.

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